8 playoffs wins in 2009.
Let it sink in and savor it a moment, Nuggets fans, but realize that we’re only half-way to the summit. The next obstacle in our path is the formidable Los Angeles Lakers – the #1 seed in 2009, and looking to repeat their trip to the NBA Finals from last year.
After a total of 4 wins in the previous 5 years in the playoffs (since 2004) this year’s playoff run has topped the magical and improbable run in 1994 when the 8th seeded Nuggets knocked off the #1 Seattle Sonics and took the Utah Jazz to 7 games in round 2.
Hearing, “First time in the Western Conference Finals in 24 years” will never get old for me.Â
The similarities beween the 2009 Denver team and that 1985 squad:
Since joining the NBA (the Nuggets were originally an ABA team) in 1976, the Nuggets have never been to the Finals. To do it this year, the Nuggets will have to do two things that Coach George Karl has been preaching since a key turning point in March, when he told the team they could do “special” things this year – “Stay Hungry, Stay Humble”.
It will also take a perfect storm of things going the right way, but why not – it’s been happening all season. The Nuggets miracles started with aquiring point-guard Chauncey Billups from the Detroit Pistons for Allen Iverson. Iverson is an incredible NBA player, but his need to have the ball in his hands, and the fact that he had started to lose a step or two did not mesh well with the Nuggets focus on offense and defense this season. Billups, on the other hand, fits both like a glove – his floor leadership is exactly what the Nuggets helter-skelter offense of seasons past needed to gel, and his infectious focus on defense helped lead the way for the rest of the team. The next miracle was the Nuggets front-office recovering from trading away Marcus Camby to reduce costs by signing/re-signing 3 minimum contract players that all had huge impacts on the success of the season – Anthony Carter, Dahntay Jones, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Andersen alone filled the huge void Camby left behind with his energy, post-defense, and shot blocking, but did it all for $14 million less this season. Lastly, the Nuggets needed a different kind of coaching effort from Coach Karl than they had in seasons past – and they got it, a return to defense-first, and a return to Karl making the right calls/decisions all season long – something he’s been doing for many years in the NBA, but hadn’t done much of the past few years. Karl finally took a firmer stance with the team this season and with Chauncey echoing that on the court, Carmelo, JR and the rest of the Nuggets have fallen into line.
If the Nuggets continue to focus on defense first, bring a consistent high level of energy and focus to *every* game in this series, trust each-other on offense, and Carmelo continues to be patient and bring the same kind of game he showed in the first two rounds… Amazing will continue to Happen In Denver.Â
Western Conference Finals Prediction – it will take 6 game for the Nuggets to get 4 more wins and advance to the Finals
Just 8 more wins nets the ultimate NBA prize.